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Anarchism Paperback – 29 Aug 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (29 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851683704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851683703
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 688,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ruth Kinna grew up in Watford and is now based in the East Midlands, teaching political theory at Loughborough University, UK. She has a special interest in late nineteenth-century socialism and anarchism - particularly the work of William Morris and Peter Kropotkin. She is the editor of the journal Anarchist Studies. Information about her research is at

Product Description


"Kinna is an ideal guide and has written an exemplary work of clarification and explanation. This book deserves to be read very widely." --David Goodway, Senior Lecturer In Political Theory, University of Leeds

A valuable contribution to our understanding of this much misunderstood philosophy. --Howard Zinn, author of of A People's History of the United States

Ruth Kinna cannot be praised highly enough for writing a comprehensive, original and sympathetic work which will no doubt come to be viewed as the key text on the subject. --Simon Tormey, Professor Of Politics, University of Nottingham


"A valuable contribution to our understanding of this much misunderstood philosophy."

(Howard Zinn - author of /A People's History of the United States/) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Travis on 16 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This was first book that I have read on anarchism and Kinna has certainly made me anxious to read more on the topic.

The book is well organised and written. It encapsulates the many different adherents to anarchism and criticisms of them.

The book is extensively researched and well referenced. Each chapter ends with many suggestions for further reading which I found very helpful.

For those curious about anarchism, ie. what it is?, different types of it and what they stand for, this is an great book to begin with. But this isn't just a quick intro to anarchism it is a thoroughly researched project which I will definitely re-read in the future.

Excellent book from an expert on the topic.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Derek Wall on 8 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Anarchism has the numbers, the thousands of activists who march against the IMF and oppose neo-liberal globalisation are most likely to identify themselves as anarchists than greens or socialists. Anarchism is an ideology whose time has come, so for all of us interested in politics, whether we are A level students, undergraduates, anarchists ourselves or sympathetic critics (like me), a good introduction such as this is useful.
Ruth is obviously sympathetic to anarchism but this does not stop her from carefully assessing the weaknesses and strengths of various forms of anarchism including the pro-market libertarians, anarcho-communists, primitivists and other green anarchists. The book is well written and is clear to non academic readers, however it has the academic virtues of logical argument and effective references.
I am sure that committed 'political' anarchists would find some fault, for example, many would reject the need to refer to libertarian capitalists like Ayn Rand (who incidentally I had always assumed was a fictional character like 'Paris Hilton', invented by situationalists to ridicule their enemies).....I am sure that there are many debates that non-anarchists readers like myself would be unaware of that are of great importance to members of anarchist groups that might be picked upon the committed to criticise Ruth's book.
However, whatever ones position/sectarian preference the inclusion of excellent lists for further reading and links to numerous anarchist networks and publications from Black Flag to the Wombles, must surely please.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ken grout on 9 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Takes up the theories, and questions which work best 12 Jun. 2014
By John L Murphy - Published on
Format: Paperback
Rather than provide a chronological narrative introducing great anarchist thinkers and then current concerns (as Colin Ward's "Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction" or the not short at all "Demanding the Impossible" history of the idea and the movement by Peter Marshall; both reviewed by me), this British lecturer and editor of Anarchist Studies addresses a readership which may already have some familiarity with these thinkers, and involvement in contemporary social and progressive issues. Ruth Kinna's beginner's guide appears geared for a political studies seminar, but a reading group or curious inquirer might benefit as well from its range. Each chapter is not only footnoted thoroughly but enriched by a bibliography and a list of websites. The informative contents are neither too jargon-filled nor too slogan-stuffed. (It must be noted that "IWW" stands for not "International" but "Industrial" Workers of the World, a regrettable if understandable lapse. But we learn who designed the Ⓐ symbolizing Proudhon's "anarchy is the mother of order": Anselme Bellegarrigue ca. 1850.) Kinna keeps enough distance from the rivalries, competing theories, and hard-headed activists from many factions. Still, she asks questions, and prods readers to do likewise.

Chapter one takes on the contested definition of anarchy and the negative connotations dogging it. She addresses its past uses, its key exponents, the various forms the concept takes, and a quick history. Then, its critique of the State (not the same as society, and perhaps as government, a tricky distinction for some to parse and debate, as are power and authority as accepted or not) follows. "Natural" authority and "social" power precede her consideration of liberty. As she cites one thinker, liberty is granted, while one is born free. I found chapter three valuable for its investigation into competing arguments whether a natural, pre-industrial community of anarchists existed or survives today, and whether some older notions that anarchism imitates or returns to such a condition are upheld by anthropological evidence today. (Oddly, no mention of David Graeber appears here.)

Utopian experiments, including an aside to a New Zealand novel (one aspect of Kinna's study is that it looks a bit at Maori and Australian responses to anarchism, which get ignored in many European or British-centered studies) that smacks of the hippie era, find mention, as do the heavily analyzed (by others) experiments attempted in Spain and Ukraine during the past century. Primitivism gains throughout these sections extended attention, and Kinna shows in helpful charts how its precepts align or differ from the classic 19 and early-20c thinkers as well as some competitors from communitarians and anarcho-capitalists. The graphic summation of the range of responses by anarchists-with-adjectives helps greatly to illustrate their various positions.

The last part looks at tactics, who takes charge, whether a platform, a union, a collective, or individuals take charge. The difficult questions of success given the scope of resistance vs. the crackdowns imposed, and the adjustments of earlier decades' models of factory workers or ruralists in terms of those in cubicles, in odd jobs or none, squatters, and the like get some mention. I'd have liked more on how workers in the electronic era and the age of dispersed work and downsizing and global competition might fare in relation to the sentiment that a general strike can bring down the system once and for all. Also, while Kinna shows how state socialism and Marxist models diverge from anarchism, and the dangers of compromise, she might have taken more time to address those who advocate or at least accept some cooperation with the political system to advance some change, in light of those who reject any such collaboration as unacceptable. In light of present protests and the indifference many have shown towards anti-globalization campaigns and actions, how to get anarchism taken seriously appears still a topic needing more reflection and more guidance. However, her closing portions, as to tactics, seem to hint pacifism may not suffice.
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